Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Money and Happiness?

Ambani-Brothers_0It took a non-graduate, barely literate person from Gujarat to establish one of India's biggest industrial organization. The revolution he brought out was unprecedented in the country's history, which put the country on the world's radar, poured money in the hands of common people, and took apart the government's pathetic financial policies. Such was its magnitude that it even compelled one of the finest film directors in the country to make a fantastic film inspired by his life.

Merely two years after his death, it took two highly intelligent, educated people—one a dropout from the Stanford Business School, the other, an alumni of Wharton—to split up his indomitable legacy, in front of his widow's eyes, into two halves.

Its been five years after the split, and they are still not satisfied, as they make an attempt to settle their differences in the country's biggest institution of justice.

Money, as they say, is one of the most insignificant factors contributing to personal happiness. Otherwise, why would the world's richest Indian, boasting the country's first billion dollar house fight over petty issues?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Prevention and Cure

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India has undergone major changes ever since the MNCs have started to engulf the metropolitans. The pay packets have gone higher, infrastructure has improved tremendously, the offices have gotten better, roadside shops have given their way to expensive malls… the western culture has started to creep in.

A friend of mine tweeted -- "A pizza comes to our homes faster than a police in time of need."

The delicious cheese of a Veggie Delight from a Pizza Hut melting in the mouth offers a tremendous experience. It also injects that dreaded particles/matter in our bodies which gives fits to any partially unfit person—calories.

A moment on the lips, forever on the hips.

So the saying goes, people—especially working in MNCs—take extra effort by running endless miles on a rubber platform inside air conditioned corridors, or pumping iron twice the weight of their body, in an effort to lose the flesh gained "forever" on the hips and other parts of the body.

People make excuses while eating a chapati, "mein roti sookhi hi khata(i) hoon." ("I eat my chapati without ghee."). They stay away from sweets in an effort to reduce the fat. The most ironic of them being, people enjoying a "Diet" Coke alongside a Peppy Panneer Pizza.

Just as a note, "people" also includes me.

'Prevention' has always taken a backseat over 'Cure.' I regret those endless slices of Pizza now that I 'occasionally' exhaust myself in closed quarters amidst several other guys—I would probably not have minded had Maria been running alongside me, but unfortunately that is not the case.

So, where was I getting from this?

It has always been a case of convenience taking precedence over common sense. And the new place where I have just moved offers several such examples in daily life.

The moment I entered this country, I have been overwhelmed with variety. Where in India, I was content with buffalo milk (diluted with 50% water), I suddenly find endless types of milk! Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin A and D, Fat Free, 1% reduced fat, 2% fat, half and half pure milk… the list goes on.

My traditional "milk-corn flakes" breakfast no longer exist, because there are countless choices of morning cereals.

Extend this to almost every type of food item, and other things of day-to-day usage.

Disturbingly, most of these things are not natural. Hybrid is the buzz in this country. Hybrid milk, hybrid vegetables and fruits… everything is inorganic.

Be it cows being genetically treated to produce extraordinary amounts of milk, Chicken bred scientifically to have extra pair of legs and breasts, or apples treated with chemicals to make them insanely sweet, almost no common food item found in US is natural.

After discovering the disadvantages, special 'organic' food items are retailed—just a fancy term of selling naturally produced food items with minimal manipulation—at much higher prices than the usual processed ones.

Similarly, the overflow of fuel consuming BMWs, Mercedes, and Mustangs have given way to 'environment friendly' cars like Toyota Prius which refuses to reach 65 mph on a freeway even after pressing the accelerator.

BMW is the ultimate driving machine… no doubt about that! But the unpopularity of Mr. Bush over the Iraq war is a direct result of the same.

Prevention is better than Cure. But humans never realize. At every level—be it a frustrated call center guy working late and living on Pizza, or the organizers of Formula 1, responsible for burning away thousands of gallons of fuel in a single race.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Strauss/Smith Controversy Raises Bigger Questions

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The group league encounter between England and South Africa had a controversial ending, after Graeme Smith's heroic knock proved in vain as England became the first team in the tournament to book a berth in the final four.

Smith started suffering from cramps at one point of the innings, when he requested for a runner. Andrew Strauss was clearly not impressed with the decision and blatantly refused against it. Smith was denied a runner eventually and fell shortly after that, effectively deciding the contest in England's favor.

It is a delicate situation, where the arguments from both sides are noteworthy, but ultimately the decision went against the host nation.

Smith was right in saying that there should be some level of consistency in the rules. If runners have been allowed in the past to batsmen suffering from cramps, then he should have been given the same luxury. It was very unlikely that this decision would have altered the eventual result, but the possibility was always there.

Even the present law states that a runner is permitted if the player is injured or becomes ill. Cramps would fit in the latter category.

Strauss, on the other hand, was within the rules to raise objection, because ultimately the final decision rested with the umpire. The allegations of spirit of the game of sportsmanship should not be considered here, because he had merely presented his opinion—even though he was pretty adamant on it, the officials had the final say in this call.

Nevertheless, Strauss has made a strong statement: "You shouldn't get a runner for cramps, full stop."

Watching a batsman suffering from cramps in the midst of a long innings, and then asking for a runner has been a common sight ever since the allowance of a runner was introduced. It not only highlights the lack of fitness that a top level athlete ought to have, but also how easy it is to continue playing the game even when physically unfit.

Cricketers are arguably the least fit among professional athletes, be it tennis, squash, badminton, soccer, or hockey. Top players such as Chris Gayle and Yuvraj Singh proudly sport a bulging paunch, when, on the other hand, it would be hard to find an extra ounce of unnecessary fat in Roger Federer or Cristiano Rolando.

Of course, Arjuana Ranatunga is a vintage example of an abnormally fat athlete relying on a runner in many cases.

The issue is not just related to the conditioning of the players. Many times we have seen players just shifting to another gear after getting relieved from the responsibility to run!

Saeed Anwar springs to mind when he was hitting sixes and sweeping fours en route to his record breaking ODI innings of 194, despite the fact that he was suffering from cramps shortly after reaching his 50.

It was stand and deliver innings, devoid of any running, which forms an essential part of the game.

This is just one of the many examples where a batsman has gotten unfair advantage. If a batsman is unable to run due to his internal problems rather than any external injury, he should simply retire, regroup, and come out to play.

Would this mean to eliminate the concept of a runner altogether? Of course, not. This only implies the amendment of the rule by removing the word "ill" from it and restricting it to "injuries."

This would require an addition of a big list of the scenarios applicable to illness or injury, which is no easy task, but the officials of ICC are paid big bucks for improving the game.

The amendment would be hard to make, but it is high time that this bitter pill is swallowed. Improved conditioning will only make the game better, and a player surviving for three hours on a cricket ground certainly demands a lot of them.

So, kudos to Strauss for raising this valid issue. Smith will consider himself unlucky on the basis of inconsistency in decision making, but nobody would complain if this actually results in some brainstorming on this issue.

...Meanwhile, I would be happy with my two cents.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

New beginning, but same old Poha

Its been one week since I came here in Mountain View, and things are slowly settling down. My mattress will still take around a month to ship from India (I saved $150 instantly when I brought it in India...smart!), and hence I promptly lost $20 in buying a sleeping bag—it was on popular suggestions, I was completely fine sleeping on a carpet. There have been a lot more expenses, and I am warned they will only increase with time. The baniya inside me is COL (crying out load. Perhaps this should be made a popular abbreviation).
I still haven't got a phone, driving license, and hence no vehicle. It seems that I will require a ration card for the same—it is called by a name SSN here. The lack of a vehicle is distressing. I would have preferred to drive a motorcyle here, but apparently four wheelers are more common in the States. Hence, I will terribly miss my black beauty, which is gladly taken over by my lovely brother.
People say, love is blind. I say, love is black. I will miss my black beauty (did I say it again?). Well, except if something else comes along my way some day! Can't fault a person for trying, eh?
The other side-effects include missing the delicious Indian food. Being a foodie (and hence, a "bit" overweight) that I am, I obviously miss it. Especially when you order for a Daal Tadka, and get a layer of water above some half cooked and non-spicy cereals. Or when you have to contend with "maide ki roti."
Nah, whom am I kidding? An obsessed Indoree that I am, there was no chance on earth (or in heaven. I don't like hell.) that I could forget carrying Poha—Indoree Poha—with me. Two kilograms of Poha would be enough for 2 months. Or will they? Probably depending on how well I'd control my staple diet!
I couldn't control it today, though, and while preparing it, I was reminded of those awesome three years in Hyderabad, when I used to manage my little share of fame at my home (or Abhinav's) preparing Poha for my colleagues. My flatmate, Jajoo, owes a lot to me for those 1AM Poha treats. Well, not much. He more than made up for it by preparing awesome tea (Googlers, if you haven't tried out Pankaj's tea yet, do it soon.... before our bhabhiji owns exclusive rights on those!)
As a farewell gift, they respectfully demanded the receipe for Poha—apart from mercilessly kicking my backside for 15 min—so here it goes.

Ingredients:

  • Raw "thick" Poha (preferably Indoree)
  • Spices, salt, sugar (yeah, sugar!)
  • Vegetables: Onion and Potato will do. Some people like tomatoes and peanuts as well, but avoid that when preparing Indoree Poha.
  • Optional: "kadi patta", green chillies.
  • Some Jeeravan (preferably made in Indore), and Ratan ke namkeen (laung sev). Shown in picture.

Procedure:
  • Take some poha in a vessel, soak in water to wash it. And then drain all the water out. Keep the washed Poha lying for around 10-15 min. Even longer will do. Usually a fistful of Poha is sufficient for one person's morning snack.
  • Chop onions and potatoes, meanwhile. Chop them finer so that they will fry easily.
  • Heat some oil in a deep frying pan, and put those chopped onions and potatoes in it. Putting them together is just fine.
  • It is also advisable to put some "kadi patta" and green chillies, but these are optional.
  • Mix them for about a minute, then cover the pan so that the steam cooks them up.
  • Put the gas on medium-sim.
  • Meanwhile, put some salt and sugar (yeah!) in the soaked Poha, which would have dried up a little by now. Usually, a tea-spoonful of sugar, and a tea-spoonful of salt is required per fistful of Poha. You can do without sugar as well, but please note that the content cooked eventually will not be called Indoree Poha.
  • Occasionally remove the lid, and stir the contents lest they burn up at the bottom.
  • You would know once the onions and potatoes have cooked sufficiently. Potatoes can smoothly be cut using a spoon, while onions (assuming they are not those found in US) will turn reddish-brown
  • Put turmeric powder and red-chilli powder inside the pan. It is useful, as the powders will not remain raw, and fry itself up.
  • Now that the contents are cooked up, pour all the poha in the pan and stir carefully, so that the cereals do not break up.
  • Occasionally sprinkle some water to keep the contents wet.
  • Put the gas on sim.
  • Stir for about 2 min. Sprinkle some more water (around two to three tea-spoonfuls), and now cover the pan for a couple of minutes to let the steam cook them up.
  • Remove the lid, put some lemon juice, Jeeravan (even better, if you have Poha Masala with you) and give a final stir.
  • Serve the mouth watering Poha with some awesome Ratan ke Namkeen!

Bon app├ętit!

Or rather, ni ni karke Indoree Poha khilwa hi diya, aye?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ctrl + Alt + Del

It is always a challenge to find time to write something useless which you are not sure anybody would even give a read. I tried in the past, and failed in my first attempt. Thought it was time to revisit my stale blog, and realized it was filled with bucket load of crap, and hence decided to clean it up.

Here is the clean reboot of the system, and a fresh start. Need to see if it remains in standby, or gets filled up with crap once again.